Jul 18, 2013

    Govt-procurement lapses despite rules tightening

    SOME companies could have enjoyed an unfair advantage in tendering for public-sector contracts because of the failure of certain public bodies to follow procurement policies, according to the latest Auditor-General's annual report.

    The largest tender in which the bidding process was deemed unfair was a $19.14-million project by Republic Polytechnic to develop an integrated academic system.

    After the deadline, it allowed one vendor to submit a revised proposal.

    It was a substantial change from the original tender, but the fact was not disclosed to the tender-approving authority and the company got the contract.

    Auditor-General Willie Tan noted that the polytechnic did not consider recalling the tender or inviting other shortlisted tenderers to submit revised bids, although this is required under government rules.

    Such procurement lapses - which took up a significant portion of the 63-page report for the financial year starting last year - happened despite efforts to tighten the rules in the last few years.

    Without open and fair competiton, Mr Tan said, there would be no assurance that public-sector bodies could secure competitive prices for goods and services.

    In another case, the Media Development Authority negotiated with a vendor on a revised proposal to organise the $4.57-million Film Festival.

    The vendor's earlier bid was the highest among three bidders.

    It then submitted a new bid, which became the lowest, after the closing date for the tender. It was awarded the contract.

    The auditor-general also reiterated that public-sector entities should ensure transactions with related parties "are at arm's length and be seen to be so", as public funds are involved.